Archive for the 'inspiration' Category

When Fact Meets Fiction

Once in a while when I’m writing a book or shortly after, something in real life happens that makes me wonder if the creation of that book wasn’t somehow predestined. As if when I was writing I was receiving some sort of message from the universe about what was soon to occur. Now, I don’t claim to be psychic. But I do believe there are energies at play around us that we don’t understand. Sometimes these lead to the cases where fact meets fiction.

In a previous post I talked about how I saw a piece of information online that led me to a major plot development in my story “Cowboys Don’t Cry” in the Cowboy Up anthology. But that information came to me in the form of a single Facebook post that came and went without mention. It never went viral, and soon retired to obscurity as most posts do. I was changed, however. My story was changed. It was inspired.

Now here we are a month later and a new yet similar story has surface. And it has gone viral. It has taken hold of people and made them think “What would I do?”

In my earlier post I hesitated to give away the exact nature of this inspiration (and the subsequent reality) but I’m going to do so now. So if you haven’t read the story and don’t want spoilers…read no further.

In a heart-tugging twist in my story, the characters have to deal with an imminent death. A terminal prognosis. And the choice whether to suffer through to a natural end or take destiny in their own hands. This week a young woman facing that choice in real life has stolen all our hearts.

sunset heart

Her name is Brittany Maynard, and she is dying. Just as in my story, she has moved to Oregon, one of only 4 states in the US to have legalized physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. She has vowed to take her own life on November 1, with the help of legal medication prescribed specifically for that purpose. Until then, she wants her story told and is fighting for the same right to die with dignity for all Americans.

Critics have spoken out (most of them with kind, loving–if adversarial–words, thankfully) against her right to chose. They believe her physician has abandoned the Hippocratic Oath and that choosing her moment of death belongs to God, not her. They claim there is a beauty in natural death that overshadows any pain or suffering she could experience.

Match-made-in-heaven

I’m not taking sides in the debate. I honestly don’t know what I would do in her position. I tried to explore the issue in “Cowboys Don’t Cry,” and though the characters in that story came to a decision, I don’t know whether I would make the same choice. Do any of us who aren’t in that position really know? Really know?

The only thing I do know is that it makes me look at that story in an even deeper way, and wonder what energy was floating around me that brought that issue my attention at this particular time.

The only thing I do know is that on November 1, Ms. Maynard will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Peace, love, and light, honey.

Girls and Horses and Cowboys — yeehaw!

Girls

I’ve told you all how obsessed I was with horses as a girl–I still have a few of my Breyer model horses and other statues. Some girls played with dolls; I played with toy horses. The song “Girls & Horses,” which I love, pretty much sums up my love of horses. You can listen to it (legally) on Templeton’s website. If there’s a horse crazy girl or woman in your family, go buy it. Heck, buy the whole album (also titled Girls & Horses). It’s full of great horsey songs.

Horses

All this reminiscing about my past with horses got me a bit misty-eyed and I went looking for an old photo album. Despite the disaster that is my office, I found it. This is my first horse, Peaches, bought when I was in college.

Peaches

She was just a weanling when I got her, and I eventually trained her myself. None of those things are really great ideas, by the way: buying a horse while still in school, buying a weanling as your first horse, breaking and training your first horse yourself. But I loved that little mare, and I’d like to think she loved me. We made it work. This picture was somewhere around 1985 or 6. We used to do pretty well in our local open shows.

Cowboys

Which brings me to the real point of this post. I’ve been asked why it’s taken me fifteen years to finally start writing about cowboys, given their popularity in genre fiction. Well…let me tell you a story. See, I was in college, remember? So I had to work to pay for my horse habit. For a couple of semesters I worked for a horse trainer / cowboy we’ll just call Dave. Dave was a good guy. He treated me well and taught me a lot. But he wasn’t a fancy pants show trainer like some you see today. He was a cowboy. And one thing cowboys then were never without was a tin of Skoal in their back pockets. Dipping tobacco. Snuff.

Snuff said.  🙂

I used to accompany Dave to horse shows to help with feeding, cleaning stalls, exercising and such. We travelled in his rattletrap battleship of a rusted pickup truck with a bench front seat. Outside, Dave would just spit his tobacco juice on the ground. But in the truck…well…we all know what happens when you spit out a window at 60 mph, don’t we? So he had a spit cup. A BIG spit cup. And that old battleship didn’t have cup holders so it sat on the dash as we jounced down country roads to the horse shows.

I lived in fear of that spit cup. I just knew one day it was going to land in my lap.

Really, chewing tobacco is not a very attractive habit in many ways. Spitting is gross. Flecks of tobacco between the teeth is gross. And it tastes gross when you…

Yeah, I just might have kissed that cowboy once or twice.

And that, friends, is why it’s taken me fifteen years to write a western romance novel and a cowboy hero.

 

More on inspiration

In my previous post I shared the inspiration behind my new Mustang Wild series. Today I’m going a level deeper and delving into what motivated the debut story in the series, “Cowboys Don’t Cry” (in the Cowboy Up anthology). But first, I just have to post this picture of my wascally little feller Mo. Just because he’s the cutest thing ever.

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Okay, now that you’ve met Mo, on with the story of the story. I knew I wanted to write about the American West, with the wild mustangs as a backdrop. And I had this yearning to make these stories feel real, because the mustangs and their plight are real. While they are and will be romantic stories, I didn’t want them sugar-coated and I didn’t want larger-than-life characters with perfect hair and perfect lives running around. Because not much in real life is perfect, and life isn’t fair. I wanted these stories to be emotionally centered.

I knew I wanted the series set around a community where we could get to know the people and follow them from book to book. My heroine for “Cowboys Don’t Cry” came easily to me. She lives in ranching country, but I didn’t want her to be a typical rancher. So I made her a bit of a new ager. Kind of a hippie more into growing organic herbs and vegetables, and hand spinning yarn from alpacas she raised herself than breeding stinky old cows. And I knew my hero was a man running from something–not something like the law. More like something inside himself. But for a long time I didn’t know what.

In fact, I was well over a third of the way through the book when I found my inspiration in a post on Facebook. It was a link to an opinion piece. I’m not going to say what, because it would be a huge spoiler for the book. But let’s just say it was controversial. It took my breath away a little bit. It scared the crap out of me, and that’s why I knew I had to use it.

Still I resisted. This is not something often done in romantic fiction. Would the readers hate it? Would they feel betrayed? Would they scream and throw the book against the wall before they’d even finished the story?

I was so worried that I talked to a couple of writing friends…who of course advised me not to do it. Which was just another reason I had to. I’ve broken some rules before. I don’t like predictable fiction, so I strive to be different. To be real.

I was once told I could never, ever write a romance novel where the hero and heroine were already married at the beginning of the book. So I did. And I sold it to Harlequin, the romanciest of the romance publishers and it received 4.5 stars and a “Top Pick” designation from RT Book Reviews magazine. That book was called Keeping Caroline, by the way, and it’s still my personal favorite.

keeping_caroline

Then there was the time I was told that I could never, ever kill off the hero in a romance novel. So I did. And that book was published by Berkley and went on to be a Romance Writers of America Rita award finalist. It was a novella called “Angel and the Hellraiser” in the Demons’ Delight anthology.

demons-delight2

So yeah, I did this thing in “Cowboys Don’t Cry” that scared me. I think you’ll recognize it when you read it. I hope you’ll like it. And please don’t throw your e-reader at the wall. Those things break.

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Buy it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or All Romance e-books

Vickie

Inspiration

One of the most common questions writers are asked is “Where do you get your ideas?” So since I just kicked off my new western contemporary series Mustang Wild! yesterday with the release of “Cowboys Don’t Cry” as part of the Cowboy Up boxed set, I’d thought I’d clear the mystery of my inspiration right off the bat.

First off, you should know I’ve loved horses all of my life. When I was a kid without a horse of my own, I used to ride my bike for miles to get to a pasture where two of these magnificent creatures lived just so I could pull grass and feed them across the fence. I come by my obsession honestly. My grandfather was a mule trader back in the day. Here is a picture of him and one of his animals:

Papa_muleDespite having a very large extended family, I seem to be the only one who inherited the horse-crazy gene. But I got enough of it for all of us. As soon as I was old enough to hold down a job and make some money, I bought a horse, and I’ve never been without at least one in my life since. Right now I have four horses, a standard donkey, and a miniature donkey. More about them in future posts.

A few years ago I started volunteering with a dog adoption program that just happened to have an annual event held in conjunction with the Extreme Mustang Makeover in Ft. Worth, Texas. It was my first up-close-and-personal interaction with mustangs, and I was wowed with what they can do.

Then I stumbled on a Facebook page created by Mustang Meg, a photographer who regularly haunts mustang territory and takes amazing pictures. If you just want to look at pretty wild horses, follow her page. Seeing the mustangs in the wild, the way they were meant to be, got me really hooked and I new I had to write about them. Sadly, as I learned more about the wild horses, I found out they are being systematically exterminated by the government organization established to protect them. More about that, too, in future posts. For now just know I needed a way to express that sadness and my anger.

So I created Mustang Wild! The stories are set in Oregon, and while the humans in the books are on center stage, the mustangs make a dramatic backdrop.

So there’s the story of how the series was born. In the next post I’ll talk about how “Cowboys Don’t Cry” specifically came to be written.

And by the way, the Cowboy Up boxed set is on sale now for just 99 cents.

CowboyUpGroupBundle

Where I’ve been…

So I’ve had several questions about where I’ve been and why I’ve been so quiet the last few months. Don’t worry…everything is fine! Just a lot going on.

Almost two years ago, when I saw the surge in authors self-publishing and became intrigued with the possibilities myself, I realized there was going to be a huge need for editing and publishing services to help these books compete with the “big six” traditionally published works. I’d been working with developing authors for years, teaching classes, giving workshops, judging contests, etc. I had a solid graduate-level education, and I had the benefit of working with some wonderful editors at great New York publishing houses. So I enrolled in the Specialized Certificate in Copyediting program at the University of California, San Diego. I graduated at the end of August. The last few weeks were challenging. The final exam (a long non-fiction piece to copyedit) took many hours. Throw in a national writers’ conference at which I was a guest speaker, a hurricane deployment, and the need to tune up my search and rescue dog for FEMA recertification, and it was nearly a recipe for disaster. But I am happy to say I aced the exam and received my degree a few weeks later (and my dog has passed the first of his two recertification tests).

Wow, was I happy and relieved! I thought it was time to breathe easy.

Um…NOT!

I had done a few editing jobs and built a sketchy website. Word got out, and business picked up speed. In fact, it became a freight train. I am so grateful that so many authors have entrusted me with their creative children. I am doing my best to do every one of them justice. I am now booked out several months into the future and still receiving requests. Wow. Thank you.

For anyone who is interested, here is my sketchy website for the copyediting business. And I will be speaking on editing and self-editing at the Dallas Area Romance Authors meeting on Saturday, October 27. Click the linkie for more info on that.

So I’m busier than ever copyediting, writing, working search and rescue dogs, and taking care of all the critters at home. But lovin’ life!

Remember:

Adventures in healthy cooking – my latest culinary creation

Wow, I’ve been AWOL for a long time! Here’s a drive-by post on my latest culinary adventures: no-meat loaf. Yes, it’s a vegetarian meatloaf. Turned out pretty darned yummy if I do say so! Even better the next day as leftovers.

Dogs Days of Summer on the Farm

We’ve definitely hit the dog days of summer here on the farm, with temperatures over 100 degrees every day. And to celebrate, there’s a new dog in residence. Meet Amber, my new foster! Sorry about the bad red phone pic. Don’t know why it does that when I take pics inside.

 Amber is a five-month-old yellow lab pup. She was about to be euthanized at a local shelter because she had a minor URI (upper respiratory infection). Nothing serious at all…and yet it almost cost her life. Luckily for her, the great team at Humane Society of Flower Mound wouldn’t let that happen! Her rescue was truly a team effort as I couldn’t make it down to Fort Worth that day, and her time was up. But a call for volunteers was put out, and we quickly had people ready to pick her up in Ft. Worth, take her straight to the vet in Flower Mound (an hour away). Wait for to have her little cough checked out by the vet and get a few antibiotics onboard, meet with the (also voluteered to come in) HSFM team to get her all checked in and entered into our database, microchipped, vaccinated, treated for fleas, etc., then drive her to Denton (30 minutes away) where I picked her up. She is doing great, and I’m sure she’ll be available for adoption soon (just as soon as we clear up that little cough). She is very sweet, a little timid but coming out of her shell quickly. She loves other dogs, is unphased by cats. She’s going to make someone a great pet!

With the dog situation all taken care of, I had time to take a little ride on the yella horse this morning before it got too hot. He is doing terrific, becoming a really solid riding horse. Afterward I gave him a bath and fitted him with his new UV protective mask. Paladin has two blue eyes, one of them with no dark pigment around it at all, which makes him susceptible to horrible sunburn in the summer, and even cancer in the long run if not protected. This one is called a bug eye mask. The portion of the eyes is semi-formed to puff out so it won’t irritate his eyes.

 Of course as soon as I turned him outside, he rolled, undoing the bath work and mashing in the supposed molded bug eyes.

I’m now taking bets how long it will be before he rips the whole thing off and stomps it in the dirt!

On tap for the rest of the day, writing, writing, writing, and a little reading. I’m copyediting for a woman out east who has written a wonderful memoir. Guess I haven’t mentioned that last year I enrolled in the Copyediting Certificate Program at University of California – San Diego. It’s an 18-month course, and I’m in my last semester. I graduate in August! I’ve already started taking on some freelance editing clients. Look for the debut of my new website spelling it all out in the next few weeks.

Have a great day, all.

News from the Farm

I have a peep!

Do you see it? He/she looks so much like Mom that he/she is tough to pick out. Yes, I don’t know if it’s a he or a she. It’s nearly impossible to tell with chickens until they’re several weeks old. Fingers crossed for a hen, though!

Meanwhile another of my hens has gone broody, and the two silly broody blue girls seem to have worked out a joint custody agreement. They share the little nestbox 24 hours a day and snatch unhatched eggs from each other.

I’m a little worried about mommas and baby with the heat wave expected this week. High temperatures could get to as much as 105 a couple of days. The mommas aren’t getting up from their nest to drink or eat very much, and the baby is going to need water soon, too.

It’ll be a tough few days for the horses, too. I’m glad I’ll be home all week to check on their water (obsessively) and hose them off if they seem too hot. I’ve replaced the fans that weren’t working in the barn and I can always bring them in during the worst part of the day if needed. The barn is well insulated. Generally it’s much cooler in there than out in the sun.

Good news on the foster dog front! I’ve been taking care of a big black lab named Blaze. I took him in from a local shelter that had a fire (hence the name) and needed to move some dogs out quickly. He is really a lovable big lug. He fit in nicely with my pack and was just easy to have around, so I wasn’t all that anxious to see him go. Wouldn’t you know, he got adopted at his first adopt-a-pet? He went to a great home with a really nice lady, though, and some canine brothers and sister to play with, so I know it’s a good thing. But I was sad when I got home and realized he’d been here such a short time that I hadn’t even taken a picture of him.

I’ll take a short break to dote on my dogs, but eventually a set of sad eyes and needy face will call to me and I’ll do it all over again. Why, when their are so many hundreds of thousands of homeless animals out there that saving one at a time can’t possibly make a dent? The answer is found in my favorite quote.

Saving one dog won’t change the world, but it will change the world for that one dog.  –Author unknown

Have a good life, Blaze buddy!

Life with dogs…and cats, horses, donkeys, and chickens!

The best thing about living on a farm is that it’s never boring. There’s always something to to–usually a long list of things.

The night before last, my search and rescue dog, Boogie, had an allergic reaction to something (I think). In the middle of the night he started scratching and biting at himself frantically. All. Night. Long. Neither of us got any sleep. In the morning, I checked him over with a flea comb, but found none. Gave him a bath just in case, but he’s on Advantage II and has never had a problem with fleas. I haven’t changed his food and to the best of my knowledge he hasn’t gotten into anything. I have no idea what caused it, but it got so bad that he chewed a small bald spot on his tail and both of his ears swelled and got hematomas. I checked his ears–no infection, no mites. Cleaned them just in case. Finally I went out and got some Benadryl for him. Within an hour he was no longer scratching. Now he’s in bed sleeping off the drugs.

As I went to feed my German shepherd dog last night, I realized I had run out of the special enzymes that must be put on her food (she has a serious condition called EPI, long story). Never fear…I keep a stash in a little baggie in the kitchen just for emergencies. I reordered the enzymes for her. That stash should last until the new package arrived. So if you’re ever in my house and find a baggie of white powder in my kitchen cabinet…it’s not what you think it is.

Down in the barn, one of my hens has gone broody. That means she’s actually sitting on a clutch of eggs to make them hatch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ignored her for a few days. That was a bad idea. Because when I finally picked her up, I found 16 eggs under her! Hmmm. I’d thought a baby chick or two would be cute. 16? Not so much. Oh well, out here in the boonies there’s always people that’ll take chicks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll notice I’ve taken a pen and marked the ones she’s sitting on. Now I have to lift her up twice every day and make sure she hasn’t stolen any more! You’ll also notice that most of those eggs are not hers…as evidence by the different sizes and colors.

Meanwhile out in the pasture, my miniature donkey, Mo, has gotten fat as a full tick on all this spring grass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve cut him off from the feed to keep him from exploding. Unfortunately, he shares the pasture with two mares. He has now perfected the technique of walking under their feeders, hunching his back, and knocking the feeders off the fence. He then runs off the paint mare and eats all her food. He might only be 28″ tall, but there’s a reason I call him “Mighty Mo.”

Ah, life with animals…

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Healthy Eating Idea #3

It’s no secret that I’ve packed on a few pounds these last few years, a victim of middle age and the butt-in-chair lifestyle of a writer. Thankfully, I’ve recently been shedding them back off with some careful eating. I’ve dropped 22 lbs. and I’m still rolling strong!

One of my strategies for losing weight is to take every opportunity to trim a few extra calories off of my favorite meals (instead of giving up those favorites). I like tacos. I mean, who doesn’t? But those corn taco shells add a lot of extra calories for not much nutritional value. So as I was thinking up way to have tacos without breaking the weight bank and a way to use up some romaine lettuce in the fridge without having to eat another salad, a light bulb popped on (in my mind, not the fridge. That one was already on as I stood there contemplating while all the cold air escaped).

Taco boats. Yep, I was going to make taco boats.

I’m still a vegetarian, so I opted for a portabello mushroom sauteed in taco seasoning filling, and kept the toppings light–some salsa, a slice of avocado, a few black olives, a small crumble of queso fresco; however, this idea will work fine with whatever you like to use as a main taco filling. But I saved over 100 calories by forgoing the corn taco shell in favor of a romaine lettuce boat. I was going to put lettuce on the taco anyway, so why not use it as the containment vessel?

Here’s what I did: I sliced a stem of romaine lettuce in half lengthwise. Then by hand I peeled out the innermost leaves (putting them back in the bag for use in a salad another time). The remaining lettuce was a perfect little boat. I put my portabello filling in, layered on my toppings, and it was done! 

It turned out so great that I devoured it. I did some quick calorie calculations and determined that with my vegetarian filling (I’ve since also done this with a taco-seasoned black bean mix and a Spanish rice mix) I could have TWO taco boats for less calories than I would ingest with just one taco in a shell.

So give it a try. It’s a perfect summer dish: cool, crisp and pretty.

How do you go about trimming a few extra calories from your diet to achieve your weight goals? Or to maintain your weight for those lucky enough to be in a healthy range?

And hey, don’t forget my psychological suspense/thriller/horror short story (plus a bonus inspirational short story) is now available on Amazon for just 99 cents. Jump to the book page by clicking on the cover below.


Available Now!

western romance novel boxed set

7 men as tough as the West. 7 women ready to Cowboy Up

Available Now!

Psychological Suspense short story with a bonus inspirational short story included

Coming Soon from Vickie Taylor

Fantasy Romance Novella

What am I reading today?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker - Just started, but I'm intrigued so far!

Last five books read:

TEXAS GOTHIC - Rosemary Clement-Moore - Awesome! Great fun and spooktastic at the same time!

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN - Ransom Riggs - Really creative idea. Enjoyed it very much!

BOOTSCOOTIN' BLAHNIKS - D.D. Scott - Very enjoyable, fun book!

THE GOOD DAUGHTER - Diana Layne - Awesome! Get it now!

GOT YOUR NUMBER - Stephanie Bond - Fun little mystery!

What’s on my TBR List?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker

Reader’s Guide to E-publishing

Find your next e-book here!

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